31 December 2019

The Birthday Adventures of Snowbow

The dragon is watching,
His eyes are aglow!
I hope he's not hungry...
Just in case, off I go!

I'm a little too small, I know,
To fill the helmet of any Cowbeau,
But blue and gray lead the way,
At least out where you play!

I was searching for one more big balloon,
But found something to make me croon!
I may have missed the big day,
But I wish you happiness anyway!

What a great day to wear red
And velvet cake to be fed!
Can’t wait for the music to start,
Can’t wait to share the love in my heart!

If someone gives you any lip
I'll kick them from the hip!
Been working out, just like you,
'cuz that's the healthy thing to do!

A mother's love is the best
In the east and in the west!
Tiny little bundles bring
The happiest of everything!

You've got a bit of shade to share,
And I've a touch of humor, I swear!
If our talents we combine,
We can make everything fine!

Gollum is still on Mom's list,
But she hopes you like this.
Her hook this year was just too slow,
But one day she'll finish with gusto!

A burst of color, a breath of sun,
A hint of summer for winter fun!
The snow keeps piling up this year,
But warmth will come; never fear!

Challenges come and challenges go,
But that never stops this Daddy-o!
Just be bigger than you know,
And adversity you will outgrow!

I think I'm going to need a bigger cake
For a suitable celebration to make!
No party's big enough for you,
We'll have to do this again in a month or two!

The bump is growing every day,
And soon a third will head your way.
The joy is bigger than the bump,
Love will make hearts really thump!

Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve's Eve are special times,
My anniversaries of family outside the lines.
This family isn't quite like the rest,
But my adoptive family fits me best!

This marks the end of the birthday show,
For this is the last birthday to go.
I can't believe I made it through,
But now other things I can do!

30 December 2019

No Flake Monday

Not again!!! Yes, I'm finding myself needing to take a short break again for a while. Christmas morning left us with no snow, a black screen on my phone (which often is my only electronic connection to the rest of the world) and an unrecognized external hard drive that contains at least 300,000 photos.

I thought it was bad when Lizard's 12/12 surgery prevented me from getting any kind of crocheting or quilting done. Now he's a little more independent and moving around just a bit more, and just like that I lose my main mode of communication!

I'm not one who lives or dies by my phone; I'm annoyed that it doesn't work, and I didn't like not being able to check in with distant family on Christmas Day, but this experience may give us the opportunity to change providers, which perhaps has been needed for a decade or more. It also probably will force me to upgrade from the Apple iPhone 5SE, which likely is just a trifle outdated... there were so many functions that no longer worked!

I'm not going to jump right into the first offer I receive. After years of paying up to three times what others claim to be paying for the same service, I want to make sure whatever I get actually works where I live. This will not be a speedy process.

Even though the electronic version of Grinch bit me on December 25, I am very grateful for all my blessings. So many blessings, I can't even count them all. I got to spend Christmas Day with Lizard, and although slower than what we hoped or expected, he is working through PT and trying to stay cheerful. All three cameras still work, my computer (which had been giving me trouble for a few days) actually fired up on Christmas Day, I still have a great job, I love my family, my car works (Hallelujah!!!) and my my bicycle works. My cheap sewing machine is working fine, and although I haven't checked it in a couple of weeks, the longarm is doing well, too. The crochet hook still works, but I'm not feeling very inspired right now, and I'm trying not to focus on what I can't do.

I have a few future blog posts already set to go, so it will look like normal around here for a while except on Mondays. It is entirely possible I may be back up to my creative self next week and come up with a new snowflake pattern with or without a phone. But if you don't see me, I'm not gone. I'm just not as flaky as I like to be.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that the coming year brings you many sweet and precious blessings!

27 December 2019

Extending Christmas

(my greeting cards and affiliate links)

Bad Knee's gettin' somet'in' for Christmas!
Mommy and Daddy are blessed!
Yes, there's an owie for Christmas,
But they know yet to come is the best!

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the abode
Lurked stashes of pill bottles, too many to hold!
Surgeon's instructions were hung on the fridge with such care,
While loved ones and friends engaged in mighty prayer.
The Lizard was nestled all snug in his chair;
While visions of cycling made him want out of there!
Mom at her sewing machine quilted away,
Wishing she had just one more day…
There's a good chance this year things will be late,
But in a month or two, Lizard's going to feel great!

26 December 2019

Wholly Cowl

No, it's not holy and it's not holey, but the punny name is kind of cute (to me), so I couldn't resist. I'm still (since 2016!!!) highly attracted to the self-striping yarns by Red Heart, especially in the bright colorways available. The fun part (for me) is coming up with just the right number of stitches to make the stripes perfect or close-to-perfect for any given project. Today's pattern is a cowl I actually came up with way back when there were only three different colors in the new line of yarn. This cowl works up so fast, and did I mention the bright and cheery neon colorway to soften winter's blow?

It is important to note that not all Red Heart Stripe colorways are created equal. If the stripes in the colorway don't look even, they aren't going to work up evenly in a pattern, either. They will still make stripes, but not even stripes as shown in the Neon version of today's pattern.

I'm tempted to frog this Parrot colorway cowl to make something else. I've needed a new pair of warm leg warmers for a couple of years now but just hadn't decided on the perfect yarn yet. I'm almost thinking the Parrot colorway and the very same stitch will make perfect leg warmers. And yet, how will the uneven stripes look in a finished cowl?!? I love the colors, so I might just go ahead and finish to see how it looks. I can always get more yarn to make new leg warmers...

The stitch I used for this cowl also works up nicely in non-striping yarn. It has great texture and warmth in solid colors, as well.

Finished Size: approximately 28 inches long and 7 inches wide
Materials: 1 5-ounce skein worsted yarn (I used Red Heart in Neon Stripes colorway), size H crochet hook (or size required to obtain correct gauge), tapestry needle
Gauge: 15 pattern st=4 inches; 11 rows of pattern st=4 inches

Wholly Cowl Instructions

Ch 24.

NOTE: I chained 24, pinched the yarn to hold my spot, unraveled and measured how much yarn 24 chains and tail take, then measured 33 inches (my gauge) back from the start of the first black section of yarn to begin my chain. An alternative is to work the chain and the 1st row with solid black (or solid to coordinate with the colorway you are using), then join the striped skein at the very beginning of a color change for the 2nd Row.

Row 1: 1 sc in the 2nd ch from hook and in each of next 22 ch; ch 1, turn.

Row 2: [1 sc in next sc, 1 tr in next sc] 11 times, 1 sc in next sc; ch 3, turn.

Row 3: [1 tr in next sc, 1 sc in next tr] 11 times, 1 tr in next sc; ch 1, turn.

Rows 4-70 (or desired length): Repeat rows 2 and 3; bind off leaving a long tail. Using a tapestry needle and long tail, bind starting Row to final Row using a whip stitch. Cowl may be twisted one half time for a mobius cowl, if desired. OR...

Row 71: 1 sc in each st across; ch 1, turn.

Row 72: Attach top of cowl to bottom (with half a twist if mobius cowl if desired) by slip stitching or whip stitching across both top and bottom, catching 1 sc from each end in each sl st; bind off. Weave in ends.

STRIPE NOTE: To preserve even striped scheme, I worked 1 or 2 dc or dtr at the end of each Row as needed instead of tr to force colors to end in the proper place. Changing the end stitch on each Row (I think I did it probably 22 times out of 70 Rows) does not affect the texture or appearance of final cowl. Also, two skeins may be used instead of one for a longer cowl, or two or more skeins may be used without joining the ends to make a scarf instead of a cowl. If not using a self-striping yarn, cowl may be made wider or more narrow, depending upon user preference.

Finish: This pattern in most cases does not require blocking, but should the crocheter desire, I've included instructions for blocking acrylic yarn.

To block an acrylic cowl, preheat steam iron and fill with distilled water (or use spray bottle to mist scarf lightly). Shape cowl on ironing board. Hold iron 1 to 2 inches above cowl and move up and down the length without touching iron to yarn. Allow steam to contact cowl as much as possible, but be careful not to burn yourself on that same steam. After two or three generous passes, turn off iron and set aside safely. Allow Wholly cowl to cool.

Place cowl around neck or just hang it over a bed post. The colors are too beautiful to stick in the closet!

23 December 2019

Snowflake Monday

Sleepless Snowflake

The only reason I have a snowflake pattern this week is because I was sleepless. Well, and I guess I need to give some inspirational credit to this cute little button set that refused to allow me to leave Joanne's without it when I had to break my longstanding Christmas shopping oath to buy backing for a grandkid quilt. (I've probably had to break my oath for quilt backing a time or two in the past; it's just not something I tend to keep on hand, and I don't always have time to piece a backing in time for gift-giving year-round.) Plus, check out that snowflake inspiration at the top of the card!!!

Yes, I could have crocheted these embellishments, and I probably will next time around. As a matter of fact, I should crochet a carrot and a couple lumps of coal to make a snowman version of today's flake. I think I still have a bunch of mini jingle bells in my bead stash; I could fashion them into sleighbells for the reindeer!

Of course, the snowflake may be made without any embellishment. It even makes a cute gift tag decoration that can double as a tree ornament if you bind off early.

You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!

Finished Size: 4.75 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 7 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line

Sleepless Snowflake Instructions

Make magic ring.

Round 1: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 11 dc in ring; sl st in 2nd ch of starting ch 2. Pull magic circle tight.

Round 2: 1 sc in same ch as sl st, [1 sc in next dc, 2 sc in next dc] 5 times; 1 sc in next dc, 1 sc in same ch as starting sc; sl st in starting sc.

Round 3: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc in same sc as sl st, [1 dc in each of next 2 dc, 3 dc in next sc] 5 times; 1 dc in each of next 2 dc, 1 dc in same sc as starting dc; sl st in 2nd ch of starting ch 2.

Round 4: 2 sc in same ch as sl st, [1 sc in each of next 4 dc, 3 sc in next dc] 5 times; 1 sc in each of next 4 dc, 1 sc in same ch as sl st; sl st in starting sc.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Round 5: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc in same sc as sl st, [1 dc in each of next 6 dc, 3 dc in next sc] 5 times; 1 dc in each of next 6 dc, 1 dc in same sc as starting dc; sl st in 2nd ch of starting ch 2.
NOTE: Binding off here makes a cute flake that doesn't necessarily need stiffening. I did stiffen mine. Keeps the ends from eventually unraveling due to handling.

Round 6: 2 sc in same ch as sl st, [1 sc in each of next 8 dc, 3 sc in next dc] 5 times; 1 sc in each of next 8 dc, 1 sc in same ch as sl st; sl st in starting sc.

Round 7: [Ch 12, sk next 10 sc, sl st in middle sc of next 3/sc group] 6 times.

Round 8: [Ch 14, sk next ch 12, sl st over next sl st] 6 times.

Round 9: [Ch 16, sk next ch 12, 1 sc over next sc into middle sc of Round 6 3/sc group] 6 times; bind off. Weave in ends.

Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Sew on buttons, if desired. (I tried crocheting mine on, and the antlers were not worth the effort. Plus, you have to clean the buttons after stiffening if they are attached prior to stiffening.) Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch the snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.

19 December 2019

Tender Topics

Lizard's surgery took about 45 minutes longer than anticipated. I had begun to worry, but I had peace in my heart, too. It's a strange sensation to be concerned and yet know deep inside everything is going to be okay.

Lizard had received a priesthood blessing the night before. His first blessing was months earlier, after he hadn't been able to sleep for months on end. He slept through the night that first night. That blessing is what he says charted his path to baptism and faith. He had never been strong on faith until that first blessing, even though he had witnessed me receiving relief through various blessings during the past 15 years. His first blessing turned out to be life-changing.

His second blessing would put his faith and his determination to the test.

Just as tears were beginning to form in my eyes in the surgical center waiting room, the surgeon appeared, and he was wearing a big smile. He wouldn't have been smiling if something had gone wrong. The darkness that had attempted to crush my soul and my faith was rejected wholly and undeniably. Lizard was going to be okay.

At some point...

We both knew going into total knee replacement the third and fourth days after surgery would be the most difficult. Knowing didn't make those days any easier. Knowing others who had experienced knee, hip or back surgery, including my own, didn't make the two hardest days easier. I would have to say knowing did help both of us survive the darkest hours, but during the suffering, knowing others have survived and thrived didn't seem to lighten the burden.

I had experienced spousal surgery in what seems like a previous life, during my first marriage. My former spouse's eye was pierced with shrapnel from an exploding nail. His vision in that eye ultimately was dimmed, but not completely lost. An eyeball drained of much fluid typically is aired up much like a balloon but will begin to restore fluid after surgery. We were told the possibility existed the eye would over-inflate with replenishing fluid in the next few days, requiring the eye surgeon to vent the eye to allow the air inside the eye to escape. We didn't expect the "balloon" to nearly pop in just a few hours. (My former spouse described the feeling back then as his whole brain exploding out of his skull.) We were back at the hospital eight hours after my former husband's release, and there was nothing pleasant about recovery, from start to finish.

Many blessings were received, both hands-on priesthood blessings, as well as tender mercies. The eye had just enough fluid in it after the 90-minute trip to the hospital following the injury for the eye to be saved. We lucked into one of the top eye surgeons in the country, simply because he was on call when we arrived. It was another 90-minute drive back to the hospital in the middle of the night, via a tight, winding canyon and unimaginable temper tantrums. Once again, the eye was saved. Volunteering at a school for the blind during my teenage years prepared me for leading someone with patches over both eyes for days - because if you move one eye, you move the other, and you don't want to further mess up your eyelid when you have literal stitches in your eye. Dissolving stitches truly are a miracle all their own, but never more so than when those stitches are holding together eye flaps.

That first spousal surgery was not a smooth experience to endure for either of us. When someone is not valued as a human being, even though that person gives everything they've got in a continual attempt to be "worthy" of respect, the giver gives and gives and gives and gives and receives nothing in return. Or, sometimes the giver receives an unhealthy dose of anger, bitterness, vengeance and resentment in return. When faith is absent, in my personal opinion, spiritual and emotional healing take longer, if they occur at all. When love, such as what I experience now in my current marriage, is missing or inadequate, so are appreciation, gratitude, humility and compassion. In my personal opinion, life can seem extremely not worth living when those elements don't exist.

Total night and day comparison to what Lizard and I are experiencing now.

He's had some really hard days in the past couple of years. He has every reason to give up and throw in the towel. He could throw more than a towel, but he doesn't. He may get angry and frustrated at the situation, but he doesn't blame me. He sometimes asks what he did to deserve Parkinson's, Graves' and now a whole new knee, but he is filled with gratitude and faith. Sometimes he has to really work at that faith part, but doing so is making him stronger.

Above all, he respects me and tries to show it at all times, even when he can't understand why he can't do something today that he could do yesterday. Even when I ask to help with tasks in which he is not yet ready to surrender independence. Even when pain is more than he is able to bear alone, he still tries with all his might, mind and strength to treat me like and make me feel as if I truly am a princess.

Eight years ago, I watched a dearly beloved friend slowly deteriorate as cancer consumed her body. The final few months of her life seemed nothing but undeserved suffering. She often wasn't even completely aware of what was going on around her the final few months. As the cancer tortuously destroyed her body, it robbed her of her talents, her insight and her personality, but never her will to live. Her will to fight.

Toward the end, her husband had to do things most people would consider below them. He had to do things for her that would have dismantled her dignity had she been aware of anything more than pain. Never in my life have I personally witnessed more severe pain. Never in my life have I personally witnessed more compassion and absolute devotion. Her suffering and needs were so intense, many women volunteered to assist her husband as he tenderly cleaned her wounds and her body while she screamed in absolute and unrelenting pain. He never asked any of us to clean her when her bed sores became soiled, only to assist him as he did so with great love and tenderness.

I wasn't sure I would ever be able to do as he had done because even helping him was difficult. I'm not very good at all at watching anyone suffer while I am completely helpless to make any of the pain go away. Yet I stayed right by his side each time it was my turn and tried my best to do whatever he needed because I wanted to help. I could never have turned away. It's just not in my genetic makeup. And that's not a complaint.

Now I'm watching the person I love most suffer. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Lizard should heal. His livelihood should be restored at some point, even if he can never have back what Parkinson's has taken. He should be able to walk and ride again. He should be able to enjoy life again. The situation is not hopeless, as was my friend's.

When the sufferer is aware of what's happening, dignity is as overwhelming as pain and suffering. I want to ease Lizard's suffering, but not at the expense of his dignity. I will preserve his dignity as long as I am able.

This surgery rendered him temporarily helpless in some ways, just as my back surgery back in 2004 left me unable to complete some normal, everyday tasks. We had no home health assistance back then. (Is that the greatest medical advance of all time or what?!?) There were things I wouldn't allow him to do, yet there were things that required his assistance for my safety. I wouldn't allow him to help me relieve myself, but if I had tried to get into the shower alone, I could have been more seriously hurt. He was not allowed to see me unclothed because we were not yet married. He would help me without looking. I know that sounds crazy, but he completely acquiesced to my rules. From the beginning, he respected me, even though he didn't always understand my reasons.

It's kind of funny – I was trying to stay worthy of my temple recommend (similar to an ID card you have to earn to receive) back then, and he just recently received his first special-purpose temple recommend. We're allowed to see each other unclothed now, but dignity is the ruling factor determining which tasks he will or won't allow assistance. And he's no different than I was back in 2004! Two peas in a pod!

Every once in a while he will let out a word of the four-letter variety I don't really care to have in my home. Initially, he would quickly apologize and explain he's trying very hard, but he is very upset or in a lot of pain, and the word is not directed at me. I've been trying to offer up a few fun replacement words I thought he might actually enjoy using, such as fiddlesticks. He liked that one. He said his grandmother used to say that. So now that simple old-fashioned word is making both of us giggle when he unleashes it, which greatly improves the attitude and ambiance during stressful situations. Such as moving into and out of the CPM machine – continuous passive motion machine, or as Lizard calls it, the torture rack – or when I accidentally bump his knee or unexpectedly drop his heel while helping him in and out of the infernal device.

He had to deal with similar reactions (but not words) after my back surgery, when I couldn't drive. He drove me everywhere I needed to be until I got clearance to be behind the wheel again. I think it was close to four months that he did all my driving for me, but crossing railroad tracks continued to be excruciating for close to a year. I find myself wondering now if Lizard will have that kind of pain for as long.

We both have this dream of doing Ride the Rockies next year. It will be the 35th anniversary of the ride. We've done all the big anniversary rides together since we've been together. He wants to do the Triple Bypass, too. (To which people who don't know it's a 120-mile bicycle ride across three mountain passes exclaim, "You have to have heart surgery, too?!?") (And to which people who do know ask incredulously, "Both rides in the same year?!?") We don't know if it's realistic for either of us. I'm still suffering some neck issues left over from 2017. But goals are good. For both of us. And cycling is healthy for both of us, as long as drivers aren't on cell phones, but that's a whole different rant.

I don't know what the future will hold. I don't know if either of us will be able to do Ride the Rockies again.

But I do know we both will ride again.

Before Lizard's surgeon came into the waiting room, I'd watched other family members hear about their loved ones. Other surgeons said things such as, "The surgery went smoothly, and you'll be able to see the patient again shortly." One surgeon looked beat. It must have been a whale of a procedure. But it went well.

Our surgeon was just gleaming when he came into the room, presumably because the surgery had been so successful. His words to me were, "He really needed that. He is going to have quality of life again."

When Lizard's spinal block began to wear off and he began questioning if the surgery was worth it, I encouraged him to watch one of his favorite movies, "The Revenant", and challenged him to be like the real Hugh Glass. (The true story of survival, not the literary or Hollywood tale of vengeance.) It's not a movie he watches while I'm in the house. I started the movie for him, then went grocery shopping for two hours. That movie, even though fictionalized, may have been just what the doctor ordered.

Graves' Disease is treatable with medication. Parkinson's Disease is not going to go away. It will get worse. The new knee, however, will heal. Better days are coming. My Lizard will ride again.

16 December 2019

No Flake Monday

Lizard got a new knee last week, and that plus fourth quarter at work have kept me too busy to flake. So please enjoy a few snowflake photos, and I'll do my best to be back to full strength next week.

moonset over the surgical center

near the doctor's office

near work

near work

at work

snowflakes at the office

downtown Denver

at my desk

snowflakes on the way home

near my home

near my home

at my home

snow candle at home

at my home

my snowflake lamp

There's Snow Place Like Home
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